The LA Clippers didn’t need to set their clocks for Lillard Time on Saturday. Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard scored 22 points, but missed two free throws that would’ve given the Blazers a lead in the final minute, then missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 10 seconds left, and the Clippers held on to win.
Here’s the latest on the standings, the games to watch Saturday and Sunday, and everything you need to know. Check back for highlights and updates throughout the day.
Lillard’s missed free throws sends Clippers bench into a frenzy
Entering Saturday, Damian Lillard had been 30-for-36 on free throws in clutch time. But he missed two in a row with 18.6 seconds left and the Blazers trailing by one, which had Marcus Morris and Patrick Beverley falling over on the bench.
The Phoenix Suns, who are now one game back of Portland for 9th in the West, were clearly pleased with LA’s victory.
Lillard, however, was not amused.
Damian Lillard contends that Patrick Beverley and Paul George trolling him after his misses is a sign of respect and points out he’s sent both home in the playoffs.
Ben Simmons to undergo knee surgery
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons will undergo surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. While the 76ers haven’t ruled Simmons out for the season, sources say it would take a deep playoff run for him to return. For now, Philadelphia — currently tied with the Indiana Pacers for 5th in the East — will need to prepare for a postseason without Simmons.
Paul Pierce reacts to Ben Simmons’ injury that forced him to leave the 76ers’ game vs. the Wizards and how this could affect Philadelphia’s playoff chances.
Nuggets getting Jamal Murray back
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray had missed the first four seeding games with a left hamstring injury, but he’ll make his bubble debut Sunday, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Denver enters Sunday’s action 1.5 games behind the LA Clippers for the 2-seed in the Western Conference.
Blazers get some legendary fan support
Oh, no big deal, just Hall of Famer Bill Walton checking out a game between two of his former teams.
Walton played four seasons each for the Trail Blazers and the Clippers, but given that this is a Blazers “home” game — and that Walton won an MVP and a title in Portland — we think we know what the big man’s rooting interests are.
Walton was joined in the virtual crowd by Rasheed Wallace, who played eight seasons in Portland, leading the Blazers to the conference finals in 2000. Sadly, virtual fans can’t be heard in the arena, so we’ll never know if Sheed yelled “Ball Don’t Lie” at any point.
No Kawhi for Clippers on Saturday
LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard sat out Saturday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers due to knee soreness. Leonard missed 13 games this season prior to Saturday, but had played in all four of LA’s seeding games. The Clippers are on a back-to-back, as they’re slated to take on the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night. Full story >>
NBA names awards finalists
Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, four-time winner LeBron James and 2018 MVP James Harden headline the list of finalists for the NBA’s six major individual awards, all of which were announced Saturday afternoon. Full story >>
- LA Clippers 122, Portland Trail Blazers 117 | Box score
Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets | 3:30 p.m. ET
Phoenix Suns vs. Miami Heat | 7:30 p.m. ET
The Eastern Conference playoff teams are set and there will be no East play-in game next weekend after the Washington Wizards were officially eliminated Friday.
In the Western Conference, only two games Saturday involve bubble teams. The Sacramento Kings avoided elimination when the Portland Trail Blazers lost to the LA Clippers. And the Phoenix Suns, the last team without a loss in Florida, will look to keep the positive vibes going against the Miami Heat.
8. Memphis Grizzlies | 33-37 (.471) | —
9. Portland Trail Blazers | 32-39 (.451) | 1.5 GB
10. San Antonio Spurs | 30-38 (.441) | 2.0 GB
11. New Orleans Pelicans | 30-39 (.435) | 2.5 GB
12. Phoenix Suns | 30-39 (.435) | 2.5 GB
13. Sacramento Kings | 29-40 (.420) | 3.5 GB
Sunday’s must-see games
It was a first for both teams on Friday in the bubble — Memphis picked up its first win, while Toronto was dealt its first loss. The Grizzlies earned a much-needed victory over Oklahoma City to hold on to eighth place in the Western Conference playoff race. On the other hand, the Raptors dropped their first game to Boston in their largest loss of the season.
Because of the quirks with seeding-game scheduling and the end of the regular season, this is the only meeting between Memphis and Toronto this season. Both teams will be wearing their classic uniforms for this game: Toronto in its original dino jerseys and Memphis with its teal Vancouver jerseys. — Andrew Lopez
These two teams have met only once this season: Zion Williamson‘s debut on Jan. 22. Despite Williamson’s 17-point outburst in a 3-minute, 8-second stretch in the fourth quarter, San Antonio held on for a 121-117 victory. Originally, the teams were set to play three times over the final 14 games, including the regular-season finale. Instead, this is their only matchup on the NBA campus.
San Antonio is making a push for a playoff spot, while the Pelicans are just happy to be in the race after dropping three of their first four games in Florida. Williamson, who did not play against the Wizards on Friday on the second night of a back-to-back set, is expected to be available against San Antonio.
Without guard Ben Simmons on Friday, Philadelphia seemingly sleepwalked through three quarters against Orlando before pulling away for a victory in the fourth quarter against a Magic squad that was missing Aaron Gordon (hamstring) and Jonathan Isaac (ACL). Philadelphia has been up and down in the bubble despite coming away with a 3-1 record — picking up a win over San Antonio despite a furious Spurs comeback, a single-digit win over Washington and then the victory over Orlando.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are continuing their push to make the playoffs and turn up the pressure on the Grizzlies for the eighth seed. Portland will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. At the very least, Portland is putting itself in the right spot for the inevitable play-in tournament in the West.
- Washington Wizards vs. Oklahoma City Thunder | 12:30 p.m. ET
Analysis and intel
The Blazers’ surge has changed the West play-in race. Here are the latest projections.
The NBA playoffs won’t be the first postseason of Doncic’s pro career. Does that mean he’ll be ready to roll?